Tuesday, June 11, 2019

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - june 15, 2019

So this is one of those weeks that I'm just convinced whatever I review, I'm going to wind up pissing people off. And while I'd normally be able to skate by such thoughts on Billboard BREAKDOWN, given that it's in its own separate, equally annoying ecosystem... yeah, a quick glance at our new arrivals is telling me everything I need to know, there's no getting out of the stupid here.

But before we get to those, let's go to our relatively stable top ten... which is weird to say for a week where 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus grabs its tenth week at #1. And look, I think at this point the novelty is long gone and we're starting to hit over-exposed for this, but it's still on-top in every category except radio, and that run is getting closer every damn day! Really, the fight might be over #2, with 'bad guy' by Billie Eilish holding on because while her on-demand streaming and sales took a small hit, she's made up for it with a genuine radio run. And yet right behind her is 'Talk' by Khalid at #3, which is much better on the radio but is also much weaker on streaming and sales - go figure. Then we have 'I Don't Care' by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber at #4, which also took a hit on sales even as it continues its radio run, but where it's losing ground is streaming - which isn't a good sign for longer longevity. Now where things get a bit interesting is 'Sucker' by the Jonas Brothers, mostly for next week. It's still on top on the radio and had a good sales week, but will a possible album bomb give it a boost on streaming to make a small play? I can see a small rebound here, which is something we actually got for 'Wow.' by Post Malone up to #6 on what looks like a good radio week, even if both sales and streaming are both down. And yet it was just enough to put it ahead of 'Sunflower' by Post Malone and Swae Lee at #7, which might have slightly weaker sales but far better streaming... and yet its radio is in freefall. Then we've got the small boost for 'Suge' by DaBaby up to #8, which is a sales non-presence but is huge on streaming and trying for the radio run, but it was just enough to eclipse 'Dancing With A Stranger' by Sam Smith and Normani down at #9, as it hit its radio peak and is starting to fade away gracefully. Finally, 'Sweet But Psycho' by Ava Max holds up #10 even despite being in pretty much an identical position to 'Dancing With A Stranger' with just radio and even that's going away - this might be gone pretty quickly against better competition.

All of which will take us to our losers and dropouts - and I can see how this might seem a little bigger than it actually is, especially in the latter category. For one, both 'a lot' by 21 Savage and J. Cole and 'Thotiana' by Blueface are both gone, having secured their year-end spots, and they took with them 'Mixed Personalities' by YNW Melly and Kanye West along with 'Who Do You Love' by The Chainsmokers and 5 Seconds Of Summer - don't celebrate too much with that one, they snagged a re-entry here. But these songs all seemed to have a 'moment' this year in a way many didn't, especially when you look at our losers, because nobody is going to care that much that 'Eyes On You' by Chase Rice took a hit to 65 or that 'You Say' by DJ Khaled ft. Meek Mill, J. Balvin, Jeremih and Lil Baby went to 84, or 'Night Shift' by Jon Pardi fell to 100. But of our losers it was a particularly bad week for Logic, with 'ISIS' with Joyner Lucas sliding off the debut to 79 and 'Homicide' with Eminem falling to 85, and of our other debut losers we also saw 'Easier' by 5 Seconds Of Summer tank at 63 and 'Cross Me' by Ed Sheeran ft. Chance The Rapper and PnB Rock hit 46 - don't expect this one to fall that hard, the radio's already onboard in a big way. Outside of those, all we have is the steady loss for 'Racks In The Middle' by the late Nipsey Hussle ft. Roddy Ricch and Hit-Boy at 95 - frankly, I'm surprised it hasn't fallen off sooner.

And given that we have no returning entries this week, we only have a couple of gains here, most of which are in country moving in for the summer. Luke Bryan got a mild boost for 'Knockin' Boots' up to 64 and Brett Eldredge saw continued success with 'Love Someone' pushing up to 57 - shame he had to pull up 'Someone You Loved' by Lewis Capaldi which saw a gain to 58, but it happens. Outside of that... eh, 'Look What God Gave Her' by Thomas Rhett went to 32 off an album boost - and note how I'm not about to call it country - and 'Girls Need Love' by Summer Walker and Drake went to 66... presumably because the charts didn't have enough Drake in prominent positions, go figure.

Anyway, where things actually get interesting or even somewhat controversial come in our new arrivals, starting with...

99. 'Trampoline' by SHAED - you know, it feels like it's been a while since I've seen where there's a relatively unknown indie pop group to break through on the Hot 100, but it looks like we've got one here with the creatively misspelled SHAED and the big single off their EP. And... look, I hate to be the pessimist here, but hearing that this group toured with Marian Hill kind of gave me the impression that we were going to deal with a pretty tasteful and restrained song that never quite rose to more, and that's kind of what we got. Spare burbling mix with more textured percussion, husky vocals, faint melodies that even wind up with the whistle on the bridge, hints of pitch-shifting... again, I don't want to be a killjoy, but it's not like the indie scene isn't flush with artists with this exact sound and has been for some time. I do kind of like the lyrical conceit - embracing that pit-of-the-stomach weightless feeling that comes from bouncing on a trampoline that's similar to falling through a dream or nightmare, it can be a revelatory feeling, but I'm left feeling this mix is missing the opportunity to really ratchet up that tension and get all the way there, it just feels a little too restrained. As it is... eh, it's harmless and I wouldn't mind seeing more cuts like it, but I'm not that wowed either - fine enough song.

97. 'Raised On Country' by Chris Young - okay, new album cycle for Chris Young, we've got a lead-off single that I'm praying isn't tepid, overproduced, or boring... and props to him, the only issue is that we're dealing with is production. And even then, he manages to sidestep most of the issue by locking his percussion line to the acoustic strums to disguise how programmed it is... until you realize that someone conveniently forgot to include a heavier bassline on the song, which leaves the weird feeling that the meatier electric guitar is missing its foundation. And this is one of those decisions that just baffles me - given the richer timbre of Chris Young's voice, why would you not want to add some thicker groove and swagger to this sort of song, it's just a complete misstep for this sort of swampier tone, and the higher backing vocals don't help either. And as for the content... look, I'm not against namedrops to neotraditional country when this is actually trying to play towards those tones, but I can't be the only one who is starting to think a lot of this is industry posturing, telling us what is country with cute references rather than embodying it. Don't get me wrong, this is a step in the right direction... but the missteps here are concerning, so we'll see how this translates.

94. 'Under Enemy Arms' by Trippie Redd - so I'll admit the persistent fandom behind Trippie Redd does confuse me a little, because if you're just going off of his content and sound, he's outlasted a lot of his peers with sounds and a style that isn't that far removed - maybe a little more melodic and he tries a little harder in his presentation, but I've yet to be really impressed by what he's delivered. So I will say that I was a little surprised when Trippie Redd threw in a backdrop of garish horns, dramatic strings, incredibly crisp drums, and touches of chipmunk vocals to back his muted autotuned trap flow - it's certainly distinctive, and while a lot of the tones don't really work for me, I can respect the attempt at colour and bombast. But that then circles back to how Trippie Redd himself just isn't really a gripping personality - sure, there's more focus here on how much he's going to kill you even if the wordplay is pretty basic, but his delivery isn't really conveying urgency or flair, and if we're talking anti-6ix9ine anthems, I don't think he's beating 'Stop Snitchin' by YG any time soon. As it is... I see the appeal, but I'm still not quite onboard, that's all.

93. 'Ran$om' by Lil Tecca - oh, look who it is, another forgettable trap MC with a fragment of a song nabbing a quick moment of virality off streaming before vanishing, and I have to wonder why streaming playlists give these guys any airtime at all, especially because there's nothing remotely distinctive about their content. Standard cheap trap beat with a glossy splash of tinkling melody, a monotone half-croon of a flow that he says if someone steals he take them for ransom - apparently unaware that there's nothing special about it to get jacked - and content that splits between cheap brand name flexing, gunplay, and lazy rhyming. Folks, I've covered dozens of songs just like this on the Hot 100 from folks who go on to be a thing and those who don't, and while apparently Lil Tecca has the backing of Republic, I don't hear this lasting long - sorry.

92. 'La La Land' by Bryce Vine ft. YG - and on the topic of names I barely expect to see, do any of you remember when Bryce Vine had a minor hit last summer with 'Drew Barrymore', which jacked the title of a SZA song and might have been dumb in its obsession with his household appliances and its stupid hook, but it was an interesting kind of stupid, which is why his pairing with YG actually made a lot of sense to me. And that's kind of true here, with Bryce Vine trying to play pickup artist with this rich Instagram model and his Cali references and a laconic delivery that oddly reminds me of Sam Hunt, and then you have YG show up for a remarkably pragmatic verse - she just broke up with her dude, they're both throwing money at strippers, let's go screw with no contacts. And when you pair it with the thick booming synths off the guitar loop that does a pretty decent switch into a tighter progression for YG's verse... well, there's some whiplash, but I'd argue it works. And look, the references are still goofy and Bryce Vine is still nowhere close to as cool as he's trying to be in asking this girl to waste time with him, but I do get more of the appeal, and this is a pretty good song - check it out.

91. 'Shut Up About Politics' by John Rich ft. The Five - and here's where this episode of Billboard BREAKDOWN winds up getting "political" and I wind up pissing off the audience who hates whenever I call this shit out, but I honestly think they might give me a pass on this one. For those who don't know, John Rich is a former member of Big & Rich - the 'Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy' duo - who has parlayed a lot of his country clout into right-leaning political commentary and jingoism, specifically around the current administration. No joke, he's cut songs supporting multiple Republican candidates for president, and 'The Five' featuring credit is actually referring to the Fox News "debate" show of the same name that really doesn't contribute much of anything to this song, so to then hop on the mic and demand people 'shut up about politics' screams of hypocrisy, especially when you consider the language he's using. Now I would say that John Rich or anyone identifying with the establishment telling an audience to shut up about politics and specifically the 'Green New Deal' or describing it as 'bitching fits' is inherently a political act - but that would imply John Rich has any power beyond Fox desperate to put any quasi-celebrity that agrees with them on TV, and sales that'll evaporate after a week because at the end of the day, it's just not a good song. From a production standpoint like most modern Big & Rich songs it's produced with no organic flavour or power, it's so heavily reliant on a basic hook that increasingly sounds desperate and limp by the third repetition, and it runs out of gas just past the two minute mark. So yeah, this is jingoistic junk, but it's trying to spur controversy or a reaction for the limpest possible troll, and I can't even imagine its target audience listening to it for long - so yeah, John Rich, might be a good time to take your own advice before you embarrass yourself further.

70. 'The Search' by NF - I remember getting some surprised backlash when I put 'Let You Down' on my Dishonourable Mentions of my worst hits of 2018, but truth be told the song has only soured on me with every listen and I was actively dreading listening to this here as the lead-off single for his next album. One extended verse, no hook - a weird choice for a lead-off single, but this could work - and then we get all sorts of ominous strings and symphonic bombast as the drums crush in as NF takes a conversation cadence as he meanders through his paranoia and depression and all the moments where it could all crash down around him, and why does all of this remind me of Relapse-era Eminem but minus a lot of the lyrical detail? That's always what I've found so frustrating about NF - I actually like these flows that build and escalate well against the production instead of just flying into double time, but you'd think a song that's all about an uncertain search wouldn't feel the need to pile on the bombast multiple times, especially when the actual bars and words being emphasized aren't really clever turns of phrase. Hate to say it, but I'm hearing a lot of filler or contradictory bars for all the cinematic swell that can't even match the tension established by the genuinely excellent first third of the song. I dunno, I can compare this to cuts like 'Story 2' by clipping or the Eminem deep cut 'My Darling' and while the production gets there, the content feels weirdly hollow. Better than I expected and I might even call it a pretty cool song... but I've heard this formula done better.

67. 'Call You Mine' by The Chainsmokers ft. Bebe Rexha - and on the topic of songs where I had zero expectations... look, both of these acts have been far from quality for a while, and I wasn't expecting a team-up to deliver more. And unfortunately, that's exactly what happened, and you have to start with Bebe Rexha. And this sucks because I remember rooting for her a few years back, but she sounds awful here - her vocal lead is compressed and run through corrective filters but that doesn't get around how shrill and and pitchy she is, especially in her falsetto, and none of it matches up well with the backing vocals, the guitar backdrop, or that squawking, buzzing synth drop that somehow is matching her timbre - and no, swamping out the mix and piling on the effects don't make it better. In fact, given the song's content of trying to save a burned out relationship - and the fact that The Chainsmokers can't help but write women as either shrews or desperate for affection beyond belief - I'm more than a bit annoyed Andrew Taggart didn't step up to give the song balance or something like he did on 'Closer'. But that becomes the trick: 'Call You Mine' is so clearly trying to yank together a similar nostalgic vibe that made 'Closer' "work" even if you didn't like it, except with none of the restraint or even passable delivery. So yeah, while Bebe Rexha gets the majority of the blame here, this is pretty bad too - next!

54. 'Mother's Daughter' by Miley Cyrus - so look, I've got no desire to listen to a new EP from Miley - apparently it's something of a genre-pileup disaster and missed any trace of a real album bomb with just the one song breaking through, and considering whatever she'd release probably wouldn't be better than 'Nothing Breaks Like A Heart' - which flat out got robbed - I figured I'd just check out this and move on. And with this... look, let's get out of the way, the overweight trap groove that marginalizes the melody is depressingly conventional for Miley and while I think she's still pitchy as always, I do like how her vocals are layered for a little more snarl, which matches fine enough some of the flat grind of the synth leads and a mix that gives her a bit more space. And as for Miley playing damaged girl now, especially coming after the attempt at purity on 'Younger Now'... you know, I've got a long enough memory to remember the nightmare of Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, and she's got the twang for more of a country vibe, so if a song with even these lyrics had flipped to a darker, more organic tone, I reckon it'd probably have the flavor to work. As it is... look, we already have 'Sweet But Psycho' chasing this lane and doing it with more groove and better melody, but I don't dislike this either - not bad.

16. 'Press' by Cardi B - so let me say something I never thought I'd say: while Cardi B can make herself pretty easy to hate as someone who doesn't seem to have a ton of poise navigating the media, I can absolutely argue she gets too much shit, especially from the tabloids. And normally I can't stand songs that take the piss out of the gross symbiosis a lot of celebrities have with TMZ and online platforms - in other words, 'Piece Of Me' by Britney Spears still is a terrible song - but there are ways to do it well and especially through the Offset debacle late last year it was impossible to ignore how much the media exacerbated a messy situation by overexposing it and missing context. Hell, I'd argue that's still very true for her as a rapper, which allows every other forgettable trap MC run wild but won't hesitate to make disingenuous or flat out incorrect assertions about her music and her character - and if you think this is a callout... well, if you know you know. Anyway, 'Press', Cardi's newest salvo in this direction... and if I have an immediate criticism, I'd argue it could have afforded to be more specific and targeted, less flexing and more creative ways to thoroughly tear into her haters and competition, especially as it would have better fit the production. And make no mistake, between the cavernous bass rumbles and horn-like blasts of synth, this is probably her most bombastic mix since 'Get Up 10', where I just wish the snares cracked a little louder to compliment those melodic shifts. Granted, this song also has more exposed rough edges in the vocal mixing than I prefer, but it is reminiscent of the street presence Cardi has that previous cuts like 'Money' was missing, so I'm inclined to like this. In other words... not quite her best, but I do like this - good stuff.

15. 'Never Really Over' by Katy Perry - have to be honest, at this point I'm shocked Katy Perry is debuting this high on the Hot 100. That's not saying her past couple of singles have been bad, but she was an act badly disadvantaged by the shifts in mainstream pop and previous songs have seen her struggling to keep up. And while I don't think the combination with Zedd worked on '365'... honestly, I think it works here. Yeah, the percussion is overmixed in comparison with the melodic swell and Zedd will never get sick of that damn clock sound - hell, considering how much Katy is peaking in the mix when she belts, especially on the bridge, I think I could place the majority of blame at his feet - but Katy is actually trying to sing her ass off here as she confronts doors left open in her past that might be worth chasing one last time. And maybe I'm a sucker for those sorts of tight wiry low-end synths, but Katy actually has the tightness to ride them well. So yeah, I'd love to hear this produced so it actually flatters Katy's voice and doesn't compress her into tinny peaks with her multitracking... but I'd argue this might be one of her better songs in a long time - surprisingly good stuff, I like it.

But this leaves me in a weird position at the end of the week, because we really did get a spread here. The worst is obvious: 'Shut Up About Politics' by John Rich ft. The Five is a borderline commercial and a really lousy one at that, but it's followed by the utter mess that is 'Call You Mine' by The Chainsmokers ft. Bebe Rexha as a Dishonourable Mention - when the vocals and obvious retread are that bad, it's time for a few fifteenth minutes to be hit. Now for the best... honestly, it's tough because there's no obvious standout without issues, but for the first half actually sticking the landing with its crescendo, I think I have to give it to 'The Search' by NF, with Honourable Mention actually getting a tie between 'Press' by Cardi B and 'La La Land' by Bryce Vine and YG, who really just saves that song for being just as doofy as its predecessor. But going into next week... will the Jonas Brothers come out of nowhere and nab an album bomb to make things annoying? We'll have to see!

1 comment: